Sexual wellbeing and older women- what is the data?

Susan Davis (AU), Berihun Zeleke (AU), Robin Bell (AU)

[Davis] Monash University, MELBOURNE, [Zeleke] Monash University, MELBOURNE, [Bell] Monash University, MELBOURNE

Sexual wellbeing is complex and influenced by physical, psychological and socio-demographic factors. Furthermore, the proportion of women continuing to be sexually active into old age, within and beyond their 7th decade of life, has increased. Few studies have reported the prevalence or determinants of sexual dysfunction in older women. The Health of Older Women Study (1) was a national, cross-sectional, community-based study of Australian women aged 65-79 years. This study provided a unique opportunity to explore the prevalence and determinants of low sexual desire in older Australian women. Participants provided detailed demographic data and completed validated wellbeing and sexual function questionnaires. Of the 1548 participants, 56% were partnered. We found 88% of all participants had low desire, 15% had sexually-related personal distress and 14% had hypoactive sexual desire dysfunction (HSDD). Factors independently associated with HSDD included be ing sexually active (irrespective of partner status), having symptomatic vaginal dryness, pelvic floor dysfunction and moderate-severe depressive symptoms. Few women were prescribed vaginal estrogen, despite VVA symptoms. In summary HSDD is not only more common amongst older women than previously appreciated but modifiable risk factors are not being addressed. Clinicians should also not assume that unpartnered older women are not sexually active and should ask all women about their sexual wellbeing. 1. Zeleke BM, Bell RJ, Billah B, Davis SR. Hypoactive Sexual Desire Dysfunction in Community-dwelling Older Women Menopause, Menopause 2017;24(4):391-9